A recent trend in beauty may be growing right out of your yogurt container. Fermented foods show fantastic results for gut health—but would you use them on your skin?
Several cutting-edge skincare companies say that fermented ingredients like those found in yogurt are just the thing your skin needs to treat it from the outside in. They maintain that what works for the digestion also works on the surface of your skin.
Sherylynn Gibbs, founder of Sevani Botanica, author of No Bull Beauty, and an aesthetician with 25 years of experience, has seen trends in beauty come and go. Based on clients reporting visible results, she knows that probiotics work.
She found that certain strains of probiotics encourage smoother skin, minimize wrinkles, and kill the bacteria that contribute to acne. She finds it useful for nearly all skin conditions to promote a more youthful complexion.
Before we take a look at what that actually looks like in skin care products, let’s understand what fermentation means.
Fermentation, Probiotics, & Prebiotics
To maintain a healthy system, the gut requires a proliferation of good bacteria that’s found in abundant supply in fermented foods. Fermentation occurs when food goes through a process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in food creating lactic acid. (Source)
Research shows that the dietary intake of fermented foods aids digestion and gut health, detoxifies the body, beautifies the skin, and enhances nutrient absorption.
You probably know these common fermented foods already like kombucha, yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir. Adding them to the diet, among other lifestyle changes, often corrects imbalances like candida, chronic fatigue, depression, weight problems, early aging, ADHD, autism, hormone imbalance, and auto-immune disorders. (Source)
You may hear terms like prebiotics and probiotics when discussing fermentation too. Think of them like the ideal partnership. Fermented foods produce probiotics—or “good” bacteria—in the body, while prebiotics promote the growth of good bacteria by feeding them. Common food sources of prebiotics include onions, garlic, banana, asparagus, leeks, and Jerusalem artichokes. (Source) The two together form a synergistic dynamic that wipes out illness-causing-bacteria by supporting the good stuff.
Since the body delivers nutrients to more important organs first, the skin, hair, and nails are the first places where dietary deficiencies will show up. It’s no secret then that beneficial bacteria in the gut supply the key to good health and skin.
It’s also the reason that fermented foods form a vital addition to a healthy diet.
Now that we know what fermented ingredients do IN the body, let’s explore the benefits of using fermented ingredients ON the skin. Interestingly, they work in much the same way.
Topical Benefits of Fermented Ingredients
In researching this post, I asked seven skin care companies to weigh in on what makes fermentation the latest go-to treatment for glowing skin. In addition to using fermented ingredients, these brands stand out due to their commitment to rigorous testing, proven results, product innovation, years of experience, and positive customer feedback.
Across the board, these are the benefits that they listed.
Detoxify and Protect the Skin
Much as it works in the gut, fermentation eliminates harmful bacteria that can cause acne and irritation topically. In turn, this helps reduce redness and inflammation on the skin.
“Sensitized skin loses the ability to hold nutrients and valuable bacteria that aid in natural protection from oxidative stress,” said Anne C. Willis LE, CME Founder of De La Terre Skincare. “Prebiotics allow the skin’s surface environment to become more stable so prebiotics can do what they do best, which is act as natural defense when skin becomes vulnerable.”
To try: De La Terre Skincare Comforts Inflamed and Supports Healthy Skin Clay Masks incorporate both prebiotics and probiotics to decrease bacterial colonization and clear invading pathogens from the skin.
Anne Willis emphasized why both prebiotics and probiotics are necessary. “The tissue becomes nutritionally depleted thus inhibiting the ability for good bacteria to proliferate. It just can’t take hold and grow,” she said. “Prebiotics nourish the environment of the skin and the body so good bacteria can grow.”
Ingredients to look for: Proprietary blend of prebiotics and probiotics.
Inflammation is a leading cause of skin aging, explained Claire Vero, founder of Aurelia Probiotic Skincare, a skincare line based on the beneficial properties of probiotics. When skin is inflamed, beneficial bacteria that protect the skin can not survive.
“Probiotics help to balance the skin and work to reduce inflammation within the skin,” she said.
To try: Aurelia Miracle Cleanser uses immune modulatory glycoproteins from fermented bifido bacteria to generate targeted responses in the skin, balancing stress-damaged skin and stabilizing the skin’s defense system.
Ingredients to look for: Lactose (probiotic bifidoculture milk extract), Lactis proteinum/Milk protein (probiotic protein), Bifida ferment lysate (probiotic culture).
Feed the Skin Powerful Nutrients
”Fermented ingredients are known as superfoods,” Cecilia Wong, Founder of Cecilia Wong Skincare Salon and Skincare Collection, told me. “It’s packed with nutrients. Fermentation breaks down into enzymes, proteins and amino acids which can be more beneficial to skin.”
To try: Cecilia Wong Rejuvenating Toner Mist and Rose Serum Spray consist of radish root ferment filtrate which is a probiotic. These toning mists kill bacteria, soften, detoxify, heal, and rejuvenate skin cells. They also reduce conditions such as acne and other blemishes as well as alleviate allergic reactions (redness, red patches, dry patches).
Ingredient to look for: Radish root ferment
Aid Absorption & Increase Potency of Other Ingredients
Cecilia also explained that fermentation increases the bioavailability of many chemical compounds and allows for the isolation and concentration of naturally occurring phytochemicals.
Traditional fermentation technology helps keep the nutrients intact and maximizes the benefits. You’re getting the most out of a product because it absorbs in the skin much quicker.
Carla Oates, founder of The Beauty Chef, has been cooking up beauty recipes for the last 15 years. Her Australian-based company developed a unique bio-fermentation process called Flora Culture. She said that when food is lacto-fermented, the bacteria pre-digest the food to make the nutrients more available for the body to use.
“The same goes for skincare,” she said. “Fermented ingredients make the nutrients more bio-available for the skin as they have been broken down to be more easily absorbed as well as more nutritious and active.”
To try: The Beauty Chef range tackles beauty both on the inside and out. Products like Glow Inner Beauty Powder and Detox Inner Beauty Powder contain beneficial flora, prebiotics, and probiotics that are ingested. For topical use, the Beauty Fix Balm uses fermented coconut water, grains, seeds, honey and ginger. The fermentation process helps make the nutrients and hydrating electrolytes in the coconut water more available for the skin to use and also turns the amino acids from the grains and seeds into smaller peptides which smooth the skin as well as providing nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are more easily absorbed by the skin.
Ingredients to look for: Fermented coconut water extract and fermented essence.
Act as a Natural Preservative
The process of fermentation prevents oxidation, allowing products to maintain maximum potency and effectiveness.
Since fermentation kills harmful bacteria, Laurel Shaffer, an herbalist and founder of Laurel Whole Plant Organics, incorporates a low percentage (1%) of radish root ferment in Laurel Whole Plant Organics toning elixirs.
She said, “It acts as a very mild preservative. Our hydrosols are living things, so I want more to keep bacteria counts in check, as opposed to killing everything. We also have healthy flora on our skin, which harsh preservatives can damage.”
To try: Laurel Whole Food Organics Facial Elixirs combine a potent infusion of herbs known to support skin health. The addition of a mild preservative such as radish root ferment maintains the integrity of the product without resorting to harmful chemicals.
Ingredient to look for: Microorganism ferment
Is stabilization of active fermented ingredients an issue?
It’s hard enough for probiotic supplements to remain stable after packaging, shipment, and shelf life are taken into consideration. So how do they stay viable in topical form?
Laurel notes that fermentation continues until you stop the process chemically. So if the skin care is a cream, water-based product, or creamy mask, then that ferment has to be killed essentially to give the product a shelf life.
These brands say they found the solution.
De La Terre takes various organic plants, such as burdock and spinach, that are rich with biotic constituents, and compounds them into a light herbal powder. This herbal power is then infused in a powdered clay base, which helps in stabilizing the active ingredients.
Aurelia Probiotic Skincare uses an extract so the probiotic isn’t used in its “live” form.
But don’t try these methods at home!
Unless you’re applying fresh fermented food to your face (on to that in a minute!), creating fermented skincare is best left to a lab. A lab has access to the correct equipment to measure results and ensure safety, says a chemist for YULI Skincare, a company that uses biofermented ingredients in many products including Cell Perfecto PM corrective serum, Halcyon Cleanser, Liquid Courage antioxidant serum, and Modern Alchemist.
Results depend on the process and methods used.
“Some biofermentation will result in exponentially increasing the concentration of desirable activity such as targeted vitamins and phytonutrients,” the chemist for YULI Skincare said. “Other techniques help refine raw plant material into a form that can be more fully absorbed by skin. The processed ingredients therefore become more beneficial for topical use.”
That said, there are still ways to deliver live cultures to the skin without heading to the local laboratory. You probably have them growing right in your own kitchen.
Easy DIY Mask by Cecilia Wong
This is a great DIY that Cecilia Wong shares with her celebrity clients. It’s simple and offers instant results. (Also found in my post on WishGarden Herbs.)
- 1 tbsp yogurt (full fat yogurt offers optimum results)
- 1 tbsp red wine
- 1 small piece avocado
- Mix all together together
- Apply on skin for 15 minutes
Both yogurt and wine are fermented and contain powerful nutrients. Red wine contains resveratrol which is anti-aging. Avocado is hydrating. This DIY mask will leave skin soft and plump.
So the next time you open a yogurt container, you may want to consider spreading it all over your face instead.
Have you used skincare with fermented/probiotic ingredients in it? If so, what have you tried already? Was it effective?